IFOAM World Congress and General Assembly: Inspiration and Outcomes
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The concluding event at the 18th IFOAM World Congress on 15 October 2014 in Istanbul was attended by around 350 participants. Evaluation of the Congress by IFOAM’s managing director Markus Arbenz was positive, but he took the opportunity at the end of this two-day international event to demand that in future everyone should have access to organic products. The keynote speakers also pointed to the way forward. The Congress was followed by the two-day General Assembly, where important decisions were made and the election of board members and the office of IFOAM President was carried out.
Picture: Some of the more than 800 attendees at the IFOAM World Congress assembled for a group photograph in front of the Istanbul Congress CenterAt the end of the IFOAM World Congress (see our earlier report), managing director Markus Arbenz highlighted the positive developments in the organic sector but, with concrete proposals, he also emphasised the urgent need to achieve food security for the world’s population with healthy food from sustainable, organic and fair production - local production units, short transport routes and innovative methods in agriculture are, in his view, the key to a good regional supply that makes fair prices possible.
(Picture: The attentive audience at the concluding event)
Addressing his comments to politicians and the world of politics, he said that it is essential and high time that all environmental costs caused by conventional agriculture were included in the price of food, because only then would prices be comparable and organic products no longer be perceived as elitist. Bhutan’s Minister of Agriculture, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji , reported on the efforts made by the kingdom to ensure that all cultivation is 100 % organic by 2020. The Bhutan project to measure the gross national product in terms of the happiness of its citizens is well known around the globe. Less well known, however, are the measures to implement a step change in agriculture, although this fundamental shift is already being imitated in the organic movement and in federal states in India – for example in the southern states of Kerala and Karnataka and in Sikkim in the north. (Pictures: Bhutan`s Minister of Agriculture reporting on his country’s ambitious plan to convert agriculture to 100 % organic by 2020. The two speakers responding to questions from the audience)
Secretary Rasit Pertev represented the UN Organization IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and encouraged the organic movement to get even more involved in political work and to do more lobbying. He also called for organic certification to be made more affordable for small farmers – he said he would then not be worried about the future of the organic movement. In his view: “We’ve got to continue developing and implementing the Bio 3.0 concept.” After two days of intense discussion, numerous information events, a small organic exhibition and a lot of networking during the breaks, the get-together of the worldwide organic family with the motto "Building Bridges" came to an end.
Immediately after the World Congress, the IFOAM General Assembly was held on 16 and 17 October 2014 and was attended by 292 delegates entitled to vote from around 40 nations. After welcoming everyone to the General Assembly, IFOAM president Andre Leu talked about the focal points in the organization’s activities. In particular, their presence on the internet has been increased and, in order to enhance the perception of the worldwide association, the words Organics International will be added to its title. In the course of the year, IFOAM representatives took part in events and trade fairs in all parts of the world. (Picture: Registration board for the General Assembly)
IFOAM managing director Markus Arbenz gave an overview of the budget that will likely show a deficit this year of around €100,000. This issue and budget plans up to 2017 were discussed and a number of questions were asked. Thanks to some big projects and sponsors, the income side of the budget will probably rise from the current €1.6m (expenditure €1.7m) to €2.86m in 2017, and expenditure to €2.80m.
(Picture: Chairing the General Assembly over the two days were Katherine Di Matteo, USA, and Helmy Abouleish, Egypt)
Arbenz regretted the fact that, especially in comparison with the decidedly positive development of worldwide organic markets, IFOAM had very small financial resources at its disposal. He also pointed out that money was increasingly coming from organizations that expected a service in return, and not only for the maintanance of the organic movement. After clarification on all questions, the General Assembly approved the actions of the management unanimously. (Picture: Markus Arbenz presenting the budget and plans up to 2017)
The new Advocacy Manager presented current and planned activities: this year, work is focused on intensifying political activities in the international context (for example, the UN) and on communicating the importance of the work of family farms in the International Year of Family Farming 2014. The presidents and representatives of national groups reported on the challenges they face and their successes. The IFOAM EU Group, with a staff of 17 under the leadership of Marco Schlüter and Christopher Stopes (picture), must continue to strive to influence many decisions taken in the DG Agri and the European Parliament that impact on the organic industry (more info here). (Picture: The IFOAM World Office and leader members of national groups)
New national IFOAM groups are being formed all the time. This was seen after the World Conference in South Korea, where the Asian IFOAM Group was established and already has 100 members. The newly constituted group in the Russian-speaking part of Asia, a recent group in Iran and a group in South Africa, have similarly ambitious plans. All national groups have a common aim – to promote the organic movement worldwide and to build bridges. Following the presentation of the new national groups, two farmers from the Fukushima region reported on their efforts to overcome the aftermath of the catastrophe. A representative from a university researching the issue also made a contribution. (Picture: Marco Schlüter and Christopher Stopes from the IFOAM EU Group, and Thomas Cierpka, IFOAM Head Office Bonn)
One of the most important items on the agenda was the election of the new board (see our earlier report). 17 representatives from around the world stood for election to the World Board (9 members): Dr. M. Reza Ardakani (Iran), Marian Cioceanu (Rumania), James Cole (Ghana), Frank Eyhorn (Switzerland), Ulrich Hoffmann (France), Matthew Holmes (Canada), Matthew John (India), Andre Leu (Australia), Peggy Miars (USA), Liu Qingdong (China), Gerold Rahmann (Germany), Juan Pablo Sciurano (Italy), Manjo Smith (Namibia), Gabriela Soto (Costa Rica), Eva Torremocha (Spain), Roberto Ugas (Peru) and Zhou Zejiang (China). For the next three years the following will be on the board: Markus Arbenz, Roberto Ugas, Eva Torremocha, Gabriela Soto, Zhou Zejiang (last row from left), Frank Eyhorn (vice president), Manjo Smith (vice president), Peggy Miars (second row from left), Gerold Rahmann, Matthew John and Andre Leu (president). (Pictures: The new World Board was elected by the General Assembly, and the President by the board)
Roberto Ugas introduced IFOAM’s strategy for the next three years. Two important projects will address the development of mountain regions in Nepal, Pakistan, Kirgizia, Ethiopia und Peru.. Both projects are financed by development organizations. Pursuing a new strategy that was the subject of much discussion during the Congress, they will go beyond the focus on 100 % organic in the direction of sustainability and cooperate with organizations whose aims coincide with those of IFOAM. On the evening of the first day of the plenary session, the countries wanting to host the IFOAM World Congress in 2017 introduced themselves: Brazil, China, India and Russia. The following day, the General Assembly chose India, and the next IFOAM Organic World Congress will take place in New Delhi.
(Pictures: Representatives from India, China and Russia presenting their case for organizing the IFOAM World Congress 2017 in their country)
During the General Assembly on 16 and 17 October, eleven motions were discussed and voted on individually (motions here). The objectives included drawing attention, with campaigns and statements, to the fundamentals of agriculture in the Year of the Soil 2015. There was a motion to develop a position paper on genetic engineering, to create recycling loops and criteria for the utilization of waste, and to provide openings for and contact with organizations that pursue similar goals to those of IFOAM. Motions 51 – 55 were unanimously adopted by the General Assembly and are on the agenda of the World Board and the organization for the period up to 2017.
After the motions of the Board, the members had the opportunity to make their own formal proposals (motions 61 – 67): with motions 61 and 62, the General Assembly voted for IFOAM increasing its work on eco seed and plant breeding, particularly in the context of genetic engineering, cell fusion and other breeding techniques detrimental to organic farming. Other issues were an updated statement by IFOAM of its position on nuclear power and renewable energy, the creation of an IFOAM beekeeper work group and the re-structuring of members’ contributions.
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